Was this a case of dirty politics or being civic minded?



By: Pat Hunter

August 28, 2008


Everyone loves a good fight and fair play but dirty politics is yet another story. What happened to Joe Sims was described in one word, “Ambushed.”


The Loudon County Election met on August 28th to discuss and approve the November ballot for the Federal, State and local elections. The eligibility of Joe Sims candidacy for Lenoir City Mayor was also on the agenda for discussion and action. The paperwork read, Joe L. Sims - Disallow (Lack of Documentation.) 


Election official’s gave an account of how an anonymous person hand-delivered documents to the State Election office in Nashville questioning Sims eligibility to run for Mayor of Lenoir City.


Election officials also discussed details about how Tony Aikens had asked to see a copy of Joe Sims restoration papers, months earlier. Also, how Robert W. (Tooter) Robinett, candidate for mayor asked to speak to Dana Zehner, Election Administrator, ten minutes before the qualification deadline. Zehner described how Robinette threw papers on the table and said you can't let him (Joe) run.  Was Robinett just doing his civic duty by informing the Election's Administrator about Sims?

video clip details


Sims did not learn that he was not eligible to run for mayor until after the qualification deadline, too late for him to make the necessary corrections in order to appear on the ballot.


Loudon County Elections administrator Dana Zehner dialed the phone and waited for the voice at the other end. It was Beth Henry-Robertson, assistant coordinator of the Tennessee State Election Commission office. Ms. Zehner stated that Ms. Robertson would explain the law and changes to the law.


Chairperson Betty Brown called the meeting to order. Dana Zehner asked Beth Robertson to explain the 1999 law and the recent changes to the law. Robertson referred to the 1999 statute, T.C.A. 40-20-114. Basically she said, “Every person convicted of a felony or an infamous crime and sentenced to the penitentiary, could not seek or hold office unless and until the person’s citizenship rights had been restored by a court of competent jurisdiction. In 1999 or 1998 when Joe Sims was sentenced to the Midway Rehabilitation Center, that was not a federal penitentiary so therefore this provision did not apply. He did not have to go to court to get his voting rights restored or to run for office, Robertson commented.   


Now, we go forward to 2007 and the Tennessee General Assembly changed the statutes and basically took out that two step requirement, Robertson commented. According to Robertson, Sims qualification had to be judged by the new statute, not the old one. There is no grandfathering language in the new statute.


Joe Sims spoke to the Loudon Election Commission with his concerns and how he had spent money on his campaign. Sims graciously thanked the Election Commission for their time. Joe Sims video clip 1     Joe Sims video clip 2


It would seem that Joe Sims, the Loudon County Election Commission and Administrator, and the Nashville Election Office were not aware of the 2007 election law change.


The Loudon County Election Commission had no choice but to vote to uphold the law and the name of Joe L. Sims will not appear on the November ballot for Lenoir City Mayor. However on the ballot will be the names of Matt Brookshire, incumbent, and challengers Gary L. Aikens and Robert W. (Tooter) Robinett.


Someone drove to Nashville and anonymously delivered papers to the State Election Commission Office to end Sims chances of running for mayor of Lenoir City.  A decent man would have faced Sims in the eye and beat him fair and square rather than taking the cowards way out!





Election Comm.: Sue Jane Hartsock, (l), Betty Brown, Joe Sims, Dana Zehner (Administrator), Ken Brewster, J.C. Allmon, Kay Brooks, not pictured.